We Apologize For the Inconvenience
Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash
(Excerpt from the short story, We Apologize For the Inconvenience.)The sign on the library doors said ‘closed for emergency maintenance’ but no amount of maintenance would solve the problems within. One of the books had eaten a man.Jo and the other librarians stood circled around the offending novel at the end of adult fiction (Section M|N), unsure how best to proceed.They had cleared out the patrons, put up a hasty sign on the doors, and locked themselves in with the monster. Now they all shuffled uneasily in place, unspoken questions floating between them.Could the book strike again? Were they at risk? Was that man still alive? Could he be rescued? Who…would volunteer to rescue the man?The head librarian, an older woman named Deepika, who had lived through her share of unusual encounters in a publicly funded reading space,was the first to clear her throat.This had an immediate effect on the other librarians, who usually looked to her for guidance when dealing with difficult patrons.“Do we have any long implements?” Deepika said. “Perhaps in the custodial closet?”“It’s locked. I think,” said Devon, who knew for a fact that it was. He had memorized every space in which he might have a panic attack in peace. He could feel one very distantly on its way now, likely to arrive as soon as he processed exactly what was happening.“The custodian has the keys but unfortunately, we sent him off on his lunch,” Deepika said. This was, after all, a librarian matter.“What about the master key?” Robert asked. He often asked about the master key, having given it a high ranking in his list of items that granted power over others.Deepika did not acknowledge Robert’s pleading look, instead reaching into her pocket and handing her keys to Claire, a more trustworthy subordinate, in one smooth move.“Try to find a broom, or a mop, or better yet, one of those trash-pickers,” Deepika said, nodding towards the custodial closet.Claire muttered this list under her breath and then disappeared behind the Adult Non-fiction shelves.Now that they seemed to have a plan, Jo returned her gaze to the problem at hand.It was a hardback book, with decorative iridescence and floral motifs, as was normal for a new book trying to be well marketed. Unfortunately, it was also face-down, so that they could only see some vague reviews and a barcode.From Jo’s spot, the spine was also turned away from her and she craned her neck half-heartedly to see if she could catch a glimpse of the title.“Should I- should I read the title?” Eunice said, having caught Jo looking. “Is it…you know…”Eunice paused, embarrassed.“Is it going to eat me if I invoke its name?”Jo internally concluded that this was a reasonable fear given the circumstances and the knowledge that such rules were often used in the type of fiction that the book probably contained.“Memorize the name and the author, and then step back until you feel safe,” Deepika said. “Then you can tell us the name. Will that work?”Eunice nodded, then covered her mouth as she read so she wouldn’t accidentally whisper the title aloud. Once she had the whole thing memorized, she walked backwards in a nervous shuffle until she was at the other end of the row of Section M|N and could feel the wall behind her.“It’s called Hunger! By Gareth Lovewort,” Eunice called down the row, her voice high and reedy.The irony was not lost on the librarians and many of them let out a sigh. Then they all watched the book vigilantly for any sign of movement but the black and silver tome was motionless.Perhaps Mr. Lovewort was just following the trend of one-word titles, but it felt vaguely malicious to Jo in light of what had happened. And what had happened?Jo wasn’t sure. She had been in the far end of K|L and saw a man exit the section. Shortly afterward, there had been a muffled yelp. Jo remembered walking at her briskest pace to see what had happened. In the open space by the ends of K|L and M|N, she had watched the book fall from where it had been floating in the air and then made shocked eye contact with Devon, who was frozen by the return cart and had presumably watched the whole thing happen.Why this book though? And why now?“What if there are more copies?” she whispered aloud, horrified.“Good question,” Deepika said. “We should check before more…unfortunate events happen. Could you search the catalog, Jo?”Jo had half expected to be sent to K|L directly and pushed down the irrational fear that had risen up.“Yeah, of course,” she said.“Be careful,” Eunice yelled from deep in M|N._As soon as she was out of sight from the rest of the librarians, Jo felt her discomfort multiply. While not particularly superstitious, she had never liked the unnerving silence that filled the empty rows when there were no patrons and often walked faster at the end of the day to leave the building before her fear caught up with her.She adopted a semi-brisk pace now, careful to temper her nervous walk so she wouldn't enter blindly into an ambush by book.It wasn’t like she had seen it develop a mouth and swallow the man whole. She just couldn’t stop imagining awful things…the book taking on eldritch elements, too many sharp teeth and the sound of something gnawing on bone.“Lovecraft is near Lovewort,” she said, absentmindedly, and shivered.The circulation desk was by the entrance. There were a few patrons who were attempting to peer through the tinted glass and others still reading the printed sign taped to the door. Most left after a few minutes but Jo felt like she couldn’t stay too long or risk being spotted. She didn’t have it in her to walk outside and spin some sort of broken plumbing story to curious onlookers.There would be a lot of complaints to deal with tomorrow.Well, more than just complaints if they never figured out what to do about the book and its victim.Maybe no one has to know, Jo thought nervously, as she logged into the computer and pulled up the library catalog. She knew it was an awful thought and forced herself to focus on her assigned task.“Lovewort…Lovewort…”There was only one listing and it was for Hunger, of which the library had one copy.Jo felt an immense sense of relief.According to the catalog, the book had been newly acquired, arriving just last week. It had only been published that very year.Jo’s relief was replaced by paranoia. Had they been targeted? Perhaps purposely selected to house a book made exclusively to eat one of their patrons?Who was this Gareth Lovewort anyway? He had a name like an amateur magician and the naming practices of an edgy teen writer.An initial search turned up nothing. Not a single review or advertisement.Jo looked up the publishing company. Surely there had to be some PR there?There wasn't. In fact, there wasn't any information for any other authors or books at all.The website was permanently in a "under maintenance" state, just like they were.There was only one source of information, a deeply buried news article about a local disappearance. One Mr. Fishing of Livform Publishing had mysteriously vanished after a major book signing event, the book launch for Hunger to be exact, and the Livform Publishing headquarters had subsequently been shut down until the police had more leads.With sudden terror, Jo logged out of the computer, afraid to look too deeply into why associated information was missing or nonexistent in case she attracted the attention of whatever entity was erasing everything linked to this book.From her peripheral vision, she spotted the tall man lurking at the door.Jo made to dive under the table but the man began to knock on the glass, his whole body clearly turned towards the circulation desk.She froze in a half squat willing her brain to do more than a fight or flight response.It was probably a patron. Not a hired hitman or something.Jo could deal with unwanted guests. She was trained to provide order and guidance in the library.She simply had to go to the door and tell the man that he had to leave.Jo stood up and cleared her throat once. Twice. Three times. She brushed down her business casual cardigan and walked as calmly as possible to the door.As she got closer, Jo noticed that the man was in uniform. Probably police from the color. Maybe he wasn’t trying to get in the library after all, just here to check in on the closure.Jo unlocked the main doors, opening the left one just enough to peer her head out awkwardly. She didn’t want to seem like she was inviting people in.“Hello,” Jo said. “Can I help you?”“Uh, hello,” said the officer. “I saw that the library is under maintenance.”“Yes,” said Jo, not sure what else to say if he had already read the sign.“I was wondering if I could still check out a book?”Jo’s hopes that the officer was here for non-library business were dashed. On the other hand, he probably wasn’t here about Hunger either.“I’m sorry, sir,” said Jo. “We’ve had a critical problem with the computer systems so I can’t let anyone check anything out.”“Ah. I see,” said the officer, with the air of someone who really did see but wasn’t going to let that stop him. “I’m on my lunch break, you see, and I promised my daughter I would check out the book she needs for her report. She needs to read it by tonight and she can’t find it anywhere else.”Jo could feel her grip on the door weakening and adjusted her hands, causing the whole thing to shift inward. From outside it must have looked like she was stealthily attempting to close the door, because the officer moved to grab at the outer handle before he hastily put his hand back down. Jo glanced at the name embroidered on his uniform. It seemed like Officer B. Rhodes was not going to let her leave.“If you come back later,” Jo said, “I’m sure the situation will be resolved then.”Officer Rhodes did not like this answer. He moved closer to the door.“I don’t get off before the library is closed and I don’t think my daughter should fail her class because the system was down and she couldn’t check out a book,” he said. “If I could even just take pictures of the pages for her, that would be fine with me.”“I’m sorry, sir,” said Jo, in the monotone drone of someone entering full customer service mode. “I’m not allowed to let anyone into the building.”“You’ve called IT, right?” said Officer Rhodes. “They’re allowed in, right? I’m sure letting in one police officer is no different than one technician. You can say I insisted on checking the premises.”Jo hesitated. He didn’t seem like he was going to make this easy.“Look,” said Officer Rhodes, sensing an opening. “I’m just a public worker, same as you. You know how it is, limited break times, long hours.”On a normal day, Jo would have done her best to help a reader in need but today was different. Today, they were hiding a crime, a possible murder, and the last person everyone needed in the building was the police.Maybe she could take him the long way around through the shelves so he didn’t see everyone standing around. Maybe that was a terrible idea and they would all go to jail for manslaughter.She sighed.“It isn’t fair to the other patrons who came and left,” Jo said, making one last effort. “What if they see me letting you in but not them? I could lose my job. You understand. As a fellow public worker. Same as me.”This was apparently the wrong thing to say to Officer Rhodes.He suddenly turned and jogged to the end of the covered entrance and peered around the wall. Then, cheering up considerably, he jogged back to the door where Jo stood, baffled.“No one around,” he said.Jo had nothing to say to that.After a moment of panicked silence, she yanked the door open and hissed at him to be quick about entering.Jo stalked further into the main lobby, hoping Officer Rhodes had followed her to where they were hopefully out of view of everyone inside and out.“Alright,” Jo said, voice low. “What book do you need? You can’t check it out but you can take photos.”Officer Rhodes pulled out his phone and checked his messages.“One second…okay here, ‘The Equinox Gathering by Sara Manavaran.’”Jo almost went over to the circulation desk to look the book up out of habit before catching herself.“We’ll have to find it manually,” she said to the officer. “Can you tell me if it's adult fiction? Non-fiction? Poetry? Young adult or children’s?”Officer Rhodes stared at the message from his daughter.“I don’t know, sorry.”“Maybe you could text your daughter and ask?”Officer Rhodes looked like he was having an epiphany and very slowly drafted a message.“I hope she sees it, she might be in class.”Jo gave him a pained smile. Maybe it was faster to look it up herself.Jo usually kept her phone off until her shift was over but she turned it on now and waited for her browser to load.“How do you spell Manavaran?” she asked, once the library internet had deigned to support her connection.“M-a-n-a-v-a-r-a-n,” said Officer Rhodes. A second later he added, “Oh! She responded. It’s fiction. For adults.”Jo put her phone away in despair. That meant they would have to go to Adult Fiction section M|N which was far too close to where everything had happened. For all she knew, Eunice was still sequestered at the back end of the row, too scared to leave.“Jo!”Jo turned around to see Claire struggling with an odd assortment of tools: two flat mops, one large push broom, two trash pickers, and a third wet mop, still stuck in its wheeled bucketClaire saw Jo’s look and said, “It took a while to figure out how to move everything. Who’s this?”Officer Rhodes, to his credit, took on his role immediately.“I’m Officer Rhodes. I’m responding to a tip from a concerned guest about the problem with the facility.”“Problem?” Claire said, her voice rising sharply. “What problem? I’m sure Jo has told you, we are-”“Yes, she said that the computer system is down,” Officer Rhodes said.“-dealing with some plumbing issues but...nothing else,” Claire finished, then hastily added, “Except the computer system, yes.”Officer Rhodes stared at Claire’s strange assembly of long tools.“There’s puddles,” Claire said. “And might as well sweep while no one’s around.”Jo felt like this was the best opening she was going to get.“Officer Rhodes has requested an interior walkthrough. Since there are...puddles, I’m going to take him through the children’s section, past the YA section, and finally into adult fiction,” Jo said.Claire stared at Jo wide eyed.“Best to get going,” Jo said. “Lots to mop and sweep, hopefully before we get to the affected areas. Oh, and please tell Deepika the one she has is the only copy available.”“Y-yes,” said Claire. She nodded at both of them then scampered off, which, with her burden of tools, was more like an awkward shuffle.Officer Rhodes watched her go.“She’s got real guilty energy,” he said.Jo’s breath hitched.“Bet she was slacking off, hiding somewhere instead of working,” Officer Rhodes said, winking. “Probably wasn’t expcting to run into anybody. Good thing you set her straight!”“Oh yeah,” said Jo. “Good thing.”Jo patted her chest while taking a deep calming breath. Claire was smart and probably had no trouble understanding she was supposed to warn the others about Officer Rhodes’ impending arrival. It was how the others would take it that Jo was worried about. Individually clever, they tended to be exceptionally blind when brainstorming plans together, herself included.“Well, you heard me, we’re going to take the long way so we can sneak by when everyone’s distracted and grab your book.”Officer Rhodes checked his watch.“Forty minutes left...let’s make it as fast as possible,” he said.Jo wondered how slow she could go before he got suspicious."Of course,” she said. “This way."--
Hungry for Love
homemade + heartmadeHome / Sweet+Savory / Liver Crème Caramel
Liver Crème Caramel
Sweet + Savoury
Hey hungry mamas, as you might already know from this post, I went on my first ꒒ꁲꋖꌅꂦꂠꈼꀯꋖꐇꌚ hunt last week. All the girls back home are trained hunters but I never expected to feel the itch so early. I guess the instinct never leaves you, no matter how far you relocate!With fresh game on my hands, I've had the fun chance to try out new twists on old recipes developed by all the hungry mamas in my homeland.Today, I want to introduce to you a surprisingly delicious way to work with liver!Liver Crème Caramel
This liver crème caramel is a local twist on my mother’s recipe which she adapted from her mother’s recipe. Soft and creamy with a rich umami flavor, it’s a sweet and savory dish that will sneak up on your taste buds and quickly become a favorite treat!What is Crème Caramel?
Also known as flan or caramel pudding, crème caramel is a custard dessert usually made with whipped cream and eggs and topped with caramel. It’s a favorite in our family (unfortunately, my kids inherited Dear Hubby’s sweet tooth!) and an easy staple for potlucks and dinner parties (trust me, I didn’t even know what they were before I moved here but enough nagging from DH to find a presentable desert and before long I was making flawless puddings to impress the in-laws!)Why Liver?
Liver? Pudding? Gross right? Not quite. The liver flavor is barely noticeable in this dish! Your friends and family might not even be able to tell what’s making their taste buds tingle in delight.While kids can be more squicky about organs, I can tell you from experience that they won’t even know it's there! My kids have become so picky that I had to have a serious talk with DH about placating them with treats instead of encouraging them to eat normal meals. But I can happily report that they enjoyed this one so much that they even asked for seconds!The liver from last week’s kill was quite fatty from unhealthy eating and drinking habits (see my blog post about combatting that here), so I wasn’t sure if it was suitable for this, but I’m glad I tried it out or I couldn’t share this delicious recipe! Back home, this dish is cooked as part of the banquet after each new mother's first ꒒ꁲꋖꌅꂦꂠꈼꀯꋖꐇꌚ hunt. While my mother might not approve the break in tradition, I encourage you to make this any time with or without a death in the family! I can guarantee you’ll be craving it funeral or no!What Kind of Liver?
Any liver will do. Feel free to use domestic livers like pork or beef, or swap out for wild game! Duck, turkey, rabbit, or venison livers are all good. If you are using wild game livers, make sure to soak them in milk overnight before attempting this dish. This gets rid of the stronger flavors that most people find unpleasant. No guarantees about bad memories though (ha!)Where To Get Liver?
In the traditional method, the liver is taken fresh from the body and used immediately. If you’re doing this yourself, the liver (along with the lungs, intestines, and heart) should be one of the first things removed and chilled as soon as possible after the kill. Of course, store bought is perfectly fine if you don’t hunt or practice ꒒ꁲꋖꌅꂦꂠꈼꀯꋖꐇꌚ and don't have a fresh carcass lying around the house! You can find liver in most grocery stores and butcher shops. Many places will stick to chicken, pork or beef livers but if you’re lucky you might also find other specialty wild game livers. Keep an eye out!Recipes for Liver
If you’ve read this far and think that the crème caramel is not for you, don't worry (though I think you should still give it a try!) I have other recipes here for the liver initiated and here for the liver shy.“Optional” Garnishes
This dish pairs well with sprigs of arugula or watercress and roasted fruits like grapes, blackberries, cherries, raspberries, or even citrus. You can also add fried bacon, salt pork, pancetta or any other well-crisped, fatty meat.Back home, you might see this dish served with a local bitter weed, fresh bread and a blue-cheese-like yogurt sauce. My grandmother swore by any combination of crispy, sweet, tart and bitter. For my grandfather’s liver, she chose a classic mix of cherry-like fruits and crisp back meat with fresh
ꋖꍩꌚꁲ which is kind of like a dandelion green. My mother was a bit more flamboyant and went for
ꌅꈼꁲꌚꀗ and shredded ꀗꁲꂠꋊ (like a vinegar soaked fig-plum hybrid and what tastes like radicchio) on top of strips of father’s salted collar meat.For my first batch and the inspiration for today’s recipe I chose roasted red seedless grapes, fresh arugala, and thin strips of last week’s leftover long pork belly seasoned with paprika, pepper, and salt and fried until crispy, all paired with french baguette slices!
Let’s get right into it!
This recipe is for eight liver crème caramels, so we’ll need eight 2-oz ramekins.What is a ramekin?
A ramekin is a small, cylindrical dish, often with a smooth interior and ridges on the outside, used for baking individual dishes. You might have seen them used for crème brûlée or small soufflés!You’ll need the equivalent of however many puddings you plan to make. As they say for
꒒ꁲꋖꌅꂦꂠꈼꀯꋖꐇꌚ, "to feed a father is to feed one individual, to feed on father is to feed a generation", and truly, I have enough liver to make almost 30+ sets of eight, but with a 1 lb store-bought liver, you can probably go up to 80 total puddings. I don’t recommend making that many at once unless you’re really craving the crème caramel non-stop!(Use up that remaining liver with these recipes instead.)
The dish itself has two main parts, the caramel and the liver mousse. Again, this serves eight, but you can safely halve the measurements to make four at a time instead.
Liver Crème Caramel
INGREDIANTSFor the caramel you will need:
6 tbsp (75 g) granulated sugar
2 ½ tbsp (50 g) maple syrup or 2 tbsp (42.5 g) honey
3 tsp (15 g) red wine vinegar*For the mousse, you will need:
1 large egg
3 tbsp (50 g) milk
1 ⅓ oz (40 g) liver
1 g dried shiitake mushroom**
3 g kombu (dried kelp/seaweed)***
½ tsp soy sauce
¼ tsp five-spice powder ****
2 tsp sugar*try to use a quality red wine vinegar! It’ll really elevate your whole dish!**if you can’t find shiitake*****, dried porcini, portobello, or morel mushrooms work as good substitutes!***if you don’t have kombu***** on hand, add in 1-2 extra mushrooms!****alternatives: quatre épices powder or allspice powder. If you’re using allspice powder, add a little white pepper to get a more similar flavor to the other alternatives!**********DH was not a fan of what he called “exotic flavors” so if you can’t get these from your local stores or find yourself in the position of having to rely on the approval of someone with a sensitive palette, I’ve listed alternatives I’ve used in the past! (I don’t recommend replacing soy sauce with Worcestershire however; it will curdle the custard.)
CARAMEL STEPS1. Place the sugar in a small pot and heat over low heat until it melts. Keep an eye on the pot and don’t rush this step or you’ll get burnt caramel!Note: Caramel is very, very hot. If you’re new to making caramel, keep a bowl of ice water nearby. If some of the caramel splashes on your hand, you should plunge it immediately into the ice water. DH made fun of me for crying when I got my first caramel burns but trust this hungry mama when I say it’s a good safety practice, especially with kids coming in and out of the kitchen!2. When the sugar has melted, remove from heat and add in the maple syrup or honey and the red wine vinegar. Stir well.Note: The caramel might bubble up or sputter loudly as you add the liquid. This can be scary but it's completely normal! Keep that ice water handy!3. While warm, brush the inside (sides and bottoms) of the ramekins with the caramel.
LIVER MOUSSE STEPS
1. In a food processor, puree the liver. Keep the speed low and pulse in the egg. Make sure the mixture is not frothy! If it does get frothy, wait a bit before pureeing further.2. In a separate pot, combine the milk, cream, kombu, dried mushrooms, soy sauce, and spices over medium heat. Bring the whole mixture to a slow boil.3. Stir the egg-liver puree and drizzle in a little of the cream mixture at a time to bring the mix to temperature. Repeat this 4-5 times before pouring all the puree into the cream.4. Remove the pot from heat and strain the mixture through a fine meshed sieve. You’ll want a smooth custard without any bits of egg, liver, seaweed or mushroom.Note: If you don’t have a fine mesh strainer or chinois, several layered cheesecloths will do in a pinch. While it won’t work in this case, I’ve heard of people using cotton baby diapers to strain fine broths, which I once considered doing to the coffee I made for DH during his inconvenient hangover right before our daughter’s birth.5. Make a hot water bath in a casserole dish or roasting pan big enough to hold all the ramekins. The water should reach about halfway up the dish or pan without anything inside.Note: Boiled water or hot top water will both do!6. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.7. Pour the custard into the caramel painted ramekins, leaving a little empty room at the top. Cover each ramekin with foil, place in the hot water bath, and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.Note: if you’re working with open faced ramekins and are worried about splashing hot water into the ramekins (or yourself) as you place the dish into the oven, you can pull out the oven rack slightly and fill the dish with water there, being careful not to accidentally flood the custards, unless this is revenge cooking and that is the goal. While baking, the water should be at a slight simmer. If the water evaporates before the creme caramel is done, add more hot tap water.8. Check one of the ramekins to see if the custard center is still wobbly (if so, good!). If the egg hasn’t set yet, cook longer. Once all the custards are set, remove them from the water bath and let cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes) with the foil on.9. Remove the foil and refrigerate for up to an hour. If you’re not planning to serve them immediately, cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for up to a day.10. To remove the crème caramels from the mold, lightly jiggle them back and forth to loosen the edges. Put a plate over the top of the ramekin and flip it over so the crème caramel sits on the plate. It should slide out easily, surrounded by a nice pool of caramel.11. Add garnish! I recommend fresh arugula, crispy slices of pork belly with paprika, and roasted grapes with red wine vinegar and honey. (Remember, bitter, crisp, sweet, and tart!) See my roasted red grape recipe here and the crispy pork belly slices here.
That’s it! Serve and watch your guests' faces as they process the taste. Let me know how it goes below!Stay hungry!
Leave me a reply!
Recipe attributed to Chefs Brad Farmerie and Hank Shaw© Shannon Chou
Baneberry__ Pancake Stack __Cake
Hearty__ Long Pork __Ragu
Long__ Pork __BBQ
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About Hungry for Love*I'm a mom from a long line of moms, just looking to keep her kids fed. *I started this cooking blog shortly after I got married in order to track all the new recipes I was learning. As the only one from my community to make it here, I've also been trying to document recipes from my childhood with a few changes to fit the bounty of the local flora and fauna.I hope you enjoy reading through my journey and are inspired to start your own cooking journey too!ꂵꂦꂵ, ꂑꄞ ꐞꂦꐇ'ꌅꈼ ꌅꈼꁲꂠꂑꋊꁅ ꋖꍩꂑꌚ, ꂑ ꂵꂑꌚꌚ ꐞꂦꐇ.
I have gone to see the King of the Beasts...
I have gone to see the King of the Beasts and begged to keep my runt. But the Law of the Beasts is clear and firm and the weak cannot survive. The strong demand the best of life, they must be allowed to thrive.My runt is small of frame and her paws are a fraction of mine, but her eyes are bright, her spirit firm, and I cannot kill the runt.So I do not feed her, I do not clean her, I do not call her to my side.Still she tears scraps from my hunt, quicker than her brothers to teethe and bite. Still she steals baths from the rain and the pond, and clumsily licks herself dry. In the night, I hear her, sneaking close to my tail, the only one who does not share my embrace but sighs sleepily into the small of my back.And I cannot kill the runt.I want to nip her legs, to chase her off so I do not feel this ache in my bones. You, runt, you do not have a name. You, runt, you do not belong. The Law of the Beasts is clear and firm and the weak cannot survive.She does not eat what I do not eat, does not touch what I do not touch, and always she observes me with those bright eyes. In spite of my inaction and the answers I cannot provide, she learns the Way of the Beasts, the Way of the Hunt, without me as her guide. I can swear it on the bones of my mother and my mother's mother that I did not teach my runt to survive. It is not a point of pride for me, I lay awake at night wondering if I have done right by what is mine.But now the boys are growing up, their spots replaced with claws and stripes. They turn their gaze towards the West, where they might carve out new lives. My runt is sleek but small of frame and shows no sign of leaving. Should I have tried harder to cast her out, to force her out of sight? To banish a runt that is not a runt, the weakling that should have died... My guilt is strong....my runt is STRONG. She fights. She lives. She thrives. The Law is clear, the strong demand and she demands that right.The boys move on, their time has come, they bid us both goodbye. I want to remind them of the Law as a dutiful mother might. But my thoughts are incomplete and I only wish good hunts for them and no runts for them and...that if they should have a runt of their own, to be stronger in spirit than I. With such a sister...perhaps they will think of her in that time.Then.I take her to see The King of the Beasts. We bow our heads low to acknowledge his might.But his piercing gaze sees through her bright eyes, staring him down without fright, and he sizes up her small paws and small frame, and...he bids her to argue her case.Though her barks are sharp and her teeth are bared, she tells a tale of sorrow. My runt did not have to suffer, but for a foolish mother, and long has she paid the price. The Law is clear, the strong demand the weak cannot survive.She is not weak before the King, her stance is firm and proud. Perhaps she has not learned the Way of the Beasts, to cower before the strong. Or perhaps...her strength has chased out the weakness she was given at birth and all along she was stronger than I.For I was weak to fear my runt might die in the dark, to be haunted by her soft sighs. I was weak to treasure the little breaths upon my back in the cold of the night. I was weak to watch her hunt, to feel some sort of pride at the way she kills, takes down the beasts more than twice her size.I see now that the hungry will fight to eat, they will eat and fight to survive, they will devour those who stand in their way until they hunger no more and thrive. That is the law as much as the Law, and though it requires some sacrifice, we are not worse for choosing to feed a runt with bright and intelligent eyes.Whether by luck or force of will, my runt has surpassed the trial of the weak. But the King is the Law and the Law holds the King and he does not hesitate in his judgment of what is right. For here is one who will rise and rise and poke holes in the Way and the Law and the King, he leaps-- My legs move to protect my own, I cannot let her die.Perhaps she means to fight the King but my scream tells her to run, at last out of my sight. Her legs are swift, her mind is sharp, she will grow and outlive...outlive...She will stalk my lands and hunt my prey and that will be the price for not taking the life of a runt who was weak and should have died, for not taking the life of a runt who was still a child of mine.The Law of the Beasts is clear and firm, the weak do not survive. For the strong demand the best of life, they must be allowed to thrive.